By: Donald V. Watkins
October 27, 2022
I entered the world of banking in January 2000 by co-founding and opening Alamerica Bank in Birmingham, Alabama. Alamerica was the first and only bank chartered by the state of Alabama to an African-American.
Alamerica Bank had a commercial focus, rather than a retail one. What is more, the bank became my continuing education classroom for learning what I needed to know about the complex world of business financing, mergers and acquisitions, international monetary policies, and global wealth creation.
The bank was also where I learned the world of money, the ever-expanding categories of bankable assets, and the many forms of wealth.
My bank ownership experience helped me to understand why 3.5 million African-Americans households in 2021 had negative net worth and another 4.3 African-American households had less than $10,000 in net worth.
The Wealth Disparity Paradigm
According to a November 15, 2021 McKinsey Global Institute report, global assets more than tripled between 2000 and 2020. Assets rapidly grew from $440 trillion in 2000 to $1,540 trillion in 2020.
GoBankingRates.com estimates that there is approximately $40 trillion in circulation at any given point. This figure includes all the physical money, and the money held in savings and checking accounts. When all investments, derivatives, and cryptocurrencies are added in, the world’s financial wealth exceeds $1.3 quadrillion.
Forbes magazine reports that there are currently 2,668 billionaires in 2022. They have a net worth of some $12.7 trillion. Forbes also found that more than 1,000 billionaires are richer than they were in 2021.
America still leads the world, with 735 billionaires worth a collective $4.7 trillion. Elon Musk now tops the world’s list of billionaires for the first time. China (including Macau and Hong Kong) remains number two, with 607 billionaires worth a collective $2.3 trillion.
An annual study prepared by OxFam was released ahead of the 2020 yearly World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This report showed that the combined fortunes of the world’s 26 richest individuals reached $1.4 trillion -- the same amount as the total wealth of the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet.
The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people in a global population of 8 billion people.
The world’s billionaires have more wealth between them than 4.6 billion people.
The 22 richest men have more wealth than all of the women in Africa.
With $40 trillion dollars in circulation around the globe at any one time, there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs of all ethnicities to get into the game of international business.
The opportunity zones that have done well for the last 3,000 years have been associated with the foods, fuels, and pharmaceutical industries.
In the last four decades or so, information technology businesses and platforms have made their impact in the calculation of global wealth, particularly in the U.S. and China.
Since 1998, I have focused on the world of clean energy. Due to concerns about climate change and the commitment of 196 nations to the 2015 Paris Agreement, this zone is a hot spot right now, and will be one for the rest of the 21st century. Fortunately, I have been able to develop a substantial network of international partners in the global energy sector.
As a People, African-Americans Must Get in the Game
Of the 2,668 billionaires in the world, only 19 of them are people of color. Ten of these billionaires are Americans.
In the second quarter of 2020, white households—who account for 60 percent of the U.S. population—held 84 percent ($94 trillion) of total household wealth in the U.S, according to the Brookings Institution.
Comparatively, Black households—who account for 13.4 percent of the U.S. population—held just 4 percent ($4.6 trillion) of total household wealth. For the most part, African-Americans do not own and operate Fortune 500/New York Stock Exchange companies. We are not major defense contractors. We do not own major Wall Street banks or accredited financial institutions.
We do not own international multimedia conglomerates like Rupert Murdock and John Malone.
Except for David Stewart of World Wide Technology, we do not own major international technology companies.
We do not manufacture spaceships, airplanes, trains, trucks, buses, cars, or yachts. We do not own major international oil and gas companies. We do not own integrated global telecommunications companies.
We do not own major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Costco, H&M, the Gap, and DSW. We do not own technology infrastructure companies and platforms like Cisco, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, PayPal, Cash App, and other comparable infrastructure and social media companies.
We do not own major airlines or space exploration companies. We do not own international solar, wind, and hydrogen-powered clean energy companies. To my knowledge, I am the only African-American with a competitive company in the international waste-to-energy sector.
We do not set monetary policies or the price of gold each day. We do not own skyscrapers in any of the world's major cities.
Except for Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, we do not own major league football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, rugby, NASCAR racing, or yachting teams. Likewise, we do not own venues where major professional sports are played.
At some point, African-Americans must get into the game of serious wealth creation or we will be left behind for good. The first step towards wealth creation is a belief in yourself and your ability to succeed against all odds.
We must also pursue, develop, and consummate strategic business alliances between our companies and international conglomerates. These must be true and substantial partnerships. The days of minority business set asides are over. Our companies must bring real economic value to these business alliances.
Finally, our political leaders in Washington (and elsewhere) must demand that African-American businesses are included as partners in progress in the flood of government and corporate contracts that are routinely channeled to white companies on a non-bid basis.